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When Medical Scribes Make Mistakes

JACKSON, Mississippi. As doctors spend more and more time on their computers writing up patient records, some doctors have chosen to outsource their note taking to medical scribes. Medical scribes are generally not doctors. They are often paid minimum wage (or just slightly above minimum wage) to take doctor's notes. According to the New Yorker, medical scribes are essentially glorified note-takers, and their rates of error can be as high 50 percent, according to one study. When medical scribes make mistakes, and when doctors rely on patient's records drawn up by medical scribes to make diagnostic decisions, medical malpractice can occur.

In some cases, medical scribes might not even work in the hospital or doctor's office. Some doctors and hospitals have hired virtual scribes. These scribes are doctors, but they are based in India. This means that while the scribes are credentialed, they are often taking notes based on recordings of what happens in the doctor's office. While doctors appreciate the scribe services because it gives them more time to interact with patients face to face, doctors and hospitals need to be aware of the medical malpractice risk that overreliance on these services can present.

According to the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association, while the hiring of scribes can provide benefits to clinicians in terms of saving time and encouraging more face-to-face interactions between patients and doctors, there is also a risk that comes along with hiring scribes. Patient confidentiality concerns must be addressed. The risk for errors must be noted and mitigation efforts for catching and correcting errors should be considered. Scribes cannot order prescriptions or order tests, though they can enter prescriptions and tests into the system to later be approved by a physician.

When it comes to your health, self-advocacy is essential. Understanding your medical condition, your prescriptions, and potentially dangerous interactions can be immensely helpful when speaking to doctors. If you have allergies, it helps to alert doctors. However, patients can only do so much, and vulnerable populations like the children and elderly may be most at risk of medical errors due to poor medical recordkeeping. These patients can sometimes have difficulty self-advocating.

As medical records become more streamlined, less personal, and more automated, the risk for errors is likely to increase. Fortunately, many doctors and hospitals are aware of these risks and are taking steps to prevent errors.

What can you do, however, if you feel like a medical record error led to injury or a wrong prescription? First, take steps to care for your health. What steps need to be taken to rectify the situation? What injuries have you sustained? Try to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor.

You may also want to consider speaking to the medical malpractice lawyers at the Bowling Law Firm in Jackson, Mississippi. Our firm helps clients suffering from a range of conditions as a result of pharmacy errors, medical malpractice, or other medical mistakes. Visit us at the Bowling Law Firm today to learn more about your rights. We may be able to help you seek damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages. 

The Bowling Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation 

1615 Poydras Street, Suite 1050 

New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112 

Phone: 504-613-4561 

Toll Free: 877-757-3539

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